In Very Hot Water – Gas Valve Failure and Water Heater Explosions
A gas powered water heater is a potentially destructive force. These heaters use a gas-fueled pilot light to heat up the water in the tank, because gas burns steadily. That same property means that in the case of failed gas valve, a huge explosion is waiting to destroy your property.So What’s This About Gas Valves?The valve is an assembly that controls the flow of natural gas to the pilot light. With older valves, you will have a plastic or metal dial or lever; turn it one way, the gas flow is off. Turn it the other, it’s on. Gas can be turned off to facilitate maintenance or if a leak is suspected.Newer valves use thermocouplings, a kind of sensor that detects whether there is heat coming from the pilot light. As long as there is heat, the valve generates an electrical current that keeps the valve open. If the heat goes out, the current automatically stops and shuts off the valve.Each of these types can wear out or break down over time. Rubber diaphragm components and metal pieces can wear down through heavy use. Alternatively, sediments can build up around the valve if the sediment trap is improperly installed or if it is wearing out. These contaminants can hinder the function of the valve and allow natural gas to leak.

The Big Kaboom – Natural Gas Explosions

Natural gas is extremely easy to ignite. This is why it’s used to power gas stoves, grills, and even city buses. It burns energetically and efficiently, because it has a lot of chemical potential energy. The problem is, this can work as much against you as for you if your gas valve is failing. A small spark from simple static discharge can ignite built up gas and cause your tank to detonate violently. Even if the tank itself doesn’t come apart and wreck your home, the ensuing fire from all that burning natural gas should do just as much damage.

I Don’t Want To Blow Up! What Do I Do?

There are several measures to reduce the risk of gas valve failure and water tank explosions.

Professional Installation

Don’t skimp on the installation procedure by going with an unlicensed contractor. Get someone who knows what they’re doing so you can be sure they do it properly.

Regular Maintenance

Check on your water heater regularly. Flushing the container and making sure sediment hasn’t built up is a good way to spot potential failure of the valve. It also gives you the chance to check the pilot light and see if you smell natural gas.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Carbon Monoxide can be produced by a faulty gas line in a water heater. Keep a CO detector in the same area as the heater, so you will be alerted if there is a problem.

In short, water heater explosions caused by failure of the gas valve are a very real possibility, but with regular maintenance and proper choices, can be averted.

December 2, 2016


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